Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Immigration is a big deal in the United States. Many people from many countries come here legally or illegally for what they are seeking. Illegal immigration obviously needs less paperwork than legal immigration. I have learned this by personal experience. My legal immigration paperwork sits on someone's dusty desk while they gobble up a quarter pound cheese burger with large fries and a diet coke. Whether or not it helps the general population, federal bureaucracy has always generated jobs for people who would otherwise be mugging you and me on the street at night. I think I would rather have them handle my immigration paperwork.

Anyway, prior to September 11th 2001, immigration was handled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). After September 11th, it was reorganized and renamed to the Bureau of Consular and Immigration Services (BCIS). This only made them slower and more wound up and severely backlogged in their processing. So they tried a different name. Their latest name is United States Consular and Immigration Services (USCIS). That name is not working out very well either because the backlog continues to increase. We might have another name change in store but who knows.

I was explaining immigration to an American co-worker and she asked me some questions which brought some very interesting facts to mind. I list them herein. Note the consistency of the system:

1) My work visa is valid till January 2008. That means if I don't get permanent residence in the US by then, I need to leave the country or file for an extension based on the fact that my permanent residence application is still with the guy eating the cheese burger. Sounds great.

2) After September 11th, Ohio has a law which states that non-permanent residents shall receive drivers licenses only till such time as their work visa is valid. Citizens and other permanent residents can have 4 year renewals. In short...that means I don't get a 4 year renewal. I have to take my visa papers to the motor vehicle bureau and get the renewal for as long as my visa is valid.

3) They won't give me a drivers license unless my visa is valid but they will give me a vehicle registration and a vehicle title for as long as I want. No checks there on whether or not I should own that vehicle - a vehicle title is permanent unless you sell it and vehicle registration is renewed online. So let me get this straight... I can't have a drivers license after my visa expires but I can have a vehicle registration for as long as I have a computer and online access.

4) Mortgage lenders will gladly provide me a 30 year mortgage on a home that may cost a quarter of a million dollars. Okay so to further be consistent, my vehicle that is registered in my name can stay parked for 30 years in this house of mine which I can own as long as I pay mortgage (doable even if you're working abroad). Again, no connection with visa expiration there. It would be awesome if the mortgage expired when the visa expires. Instant homeownership.

5) Credit card companies encourage new international students at colleges to tick the "Permanent resident" box on the credit card application form anyway. This is because they want to snare these new visa holders into the US credit system instantly. These students do get credit cards so obviously nobody bothers to check on visa validity or any such thing there. Ah ... that means a person can have a $10,000 credit line and max out all credit cards just before the visa expires and then leave this country's citizens with that debt. Hmm...this is getting better and better.

Such consistency, eh? Don't get me wrong... I continue to stay completely legal and I have never ever been on the wrong side of the law (unless you count my speeding ticket). Noddy hasn't either. We're both legal and that's how it should be. But what I don't understand is that how this enormous piece of machinery called immigration services in the US makes it harder by the day for legal residents and much much easier for illegal ones. California is thinking of passing a law where an illegal alien has to be granted a drivers license...no questions asked. Compare that to my sad plight in Ohio where I have to find the motor vehicle bureau lady's reading glasses for her so that she can check out my visa papers umpteen times before she thinks I look cute enough to qualify for a drivers license renewal. I have no idea where the paperwork for permanent residence sits but it's actually gotten to a point where finding humor in the system is your best bet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're homesick for India aren't you?

8:01 AM  
Blogger Sheeshers said...

Not really. Trust me if i wrote about the bureaucracy in India, I'd have to start a separate blog. It's much much worse back home, not to mention other troubles. Someday, to even out my blog, I'll write about that too..

9:24 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I completely understand the whole immigration thing. I get irritated thinking about all the time, money and effort we put in to getting Karim over here, and how some people just walk across a river and get it all for free and then some. They seem to have rights Karim doesn't. I have another name for the system. The USIBS...United States Immigration Bull Sh**.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous kerry said...

good to see a blog dealing with credit card issues. Credit cards are a necessity in Western Life. Sadly they can be one of our biggest liabilities. I have a site dealing with credit card management. You might like to take a look

4:57 AM  
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